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tv   John Mc Laughlins One on One  WHUT  February 23, 2011 6:00pm-6:30pm EST

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15 years ago the highest spiritual leader of the buddhist religion, they rr -- the dalai lama invited neuroscientists to study the minds of monks while they were meditating. they used brain scan technology. these scientists have now proven meditationay the brain functions. meditation is often called, particularly today, mindfulness. in this easter season of spiritual renewal, some believe that mindfulness can literally transform society. question, is mindfulness the key to individual and social harmony? can mindfulness literally transform society and does a healthy mind mean a healthy body? >> behl ask -- we'll ask
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jon kabat-zinn an expert on stressfulness reduction. if. for such a small word it packs a wallop. if i live to a hundred. if social security isn't enough. if my heart gets broken. if she says yes. we believe if should never hold you back. if should be managed with a plan that builds on what you already have. together we can create a personal safety net, a launching pad, for all those brilliant ifs in the middle of life. you can call on our expertise and get guarantees for the if in life. after all, we're metlife.
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>> dr. kabat-zinn, welcome. >> thank you. >> nice to be here. i'd like to talk to you about the relationship between meditation and the human brain. and the name occurs in the literature besides your own is that of richard davidson and his experimentations with science, what science has contributed to our knowledge of the subject. you know richard davidson. >> yes, i do. and i have worked with him and we published a paper together on the effects of meditation on the brain and the i am tune system. >> -- immune system. what takes place in the brain when meditation occurs, and do those monks who have meditated for a period of years, say 20 years, do they have a different condition of the brain as a result of the meditation? >> yes. very much so. let me start by saying just so people understand meditation
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isn't mystical or magical. it is really a way of paying attention in a particular way we're all capable of. on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. and the many different things people can build on, the quality of one's attention. if you start to pay attention to how we're paying attention, you wind up realizing very, very quickly our mind is like got a life of its own and it is all over the place all the time. it tends to be fairly scattered. and even when you try to sit down and think about something, and concentrate on it, as any student knows, after a few seconds, the mind is off someplace else and you have to keep bringing it back. the work that you're referring to that dr. davidson is doing, he's been doing for many, many years affective neuro science shall the study of the way the emotions are regulated by the brain. so hisarticular interest is
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in emotional expression. and --. >> did he undertake brain scans and electroencephalogram at the suggestion of the dalai lama? >> he has been working in the field for 35 years and some time ago as part of the mind and life institute which holds periodic conversations between the dalai lama and western scientists, that dr. davidson has been a part of for a very long time, the dalai lama suggested that it might be wonderful for neuroscientists to begin to study advance meditative practices. what were the contusion? -- conclusions. this is in the infancy. he has just published a few papers about it and more in the pipeline. one of the things that he found published a few months ago in the national academy of sciences.
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monks practicing 20, 30, 40 years on a regular basis can show patterns of sink crow anyization in regions of the bra inthat are impossible for novices to do. huge differences in the way these people can actually regulate brain function across the entire surface of the cerebral cortex. baseline gamma activity patterns. >> yes. >> the monks have it? is that an advantage to their way of life? >> well, at this point in time, the only thing we can say is that they are showing patterns in the brain that have never been seen before by neuroscientists and hasn't been postulated that they could do that. >> where is the center of the human brain. there is no center for meditation, and for many any other things. like there used to be thought to be a pain center. pain a very somatically based
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center, it is distributed across many different domains, including the limb big system. how about the left prefrontal cortex. >> it has to do with this region of the brain right behind the forehead. yes. >> and that is in part certain regions of that are involved in the processing of negative emotions under stress. and the right prefrontal cortex, and this is work dr. davidson has done for many years, when you see people at baseline who come into the lab and have an electro tap put on them and are studied with eeg or fmri for that matter, when their brains are studied, it turns out that people who have more activity on the right side of the prefrontal cortex end to describe themselves as nervous, jittering, uptight.
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like that. but those who have more left sides, describe themselves as easy going to going. >> meditation pays off. that was without meditation. we showed in another study. who we trained in mindfulness based stress reduction shift the ratio of left to right -- more to the left. the same direction the monks show. is it a stress reducer? >> there's no question it is a stress reducer. you know stress -- you know better than i do, the -- of the impact of stress, the negative impact on blood pressure, on strokes, on heart disorders; correct? >> it is huge. absolutely huge. what is more, if you ask large audiences whether they are under more stress now or less than 25 years ago, what you get is laughter. because everybody realizes the
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levels of stress in the society are going astronomical. there was a paper publishes in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences that shows a very interesting thing about stress, the repeat units of dna at the ends of all chromosomes, they shorten at an accelerated rate if you're experiencing greater stress. that shows that stress can actually accelerate the aging process up to say, 10, 15 years taken off your life, depending on the your capacity to deal with the various stress that you're -- you have in your life. you have written a 600-page book here. >> yes, i did. >> "coming to our senses, healing ourselves and the world." we'll come to that in a meant through mindfulness. >> first of all, you quote at the top of the chapter, no attachments. there is a joke that goes, have you heard the one about the buddhist vacuum cleaner.
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are you kidding, what on earth is a buddhist vacuum cleaner. you know, no attachments. >> that means no material attachments; correct? >> exactly. then you go on to say -- >> no attachments to anything. >> donald tonby one of the greatest historians who lived. you said he has commented that the coming of buddhism to the west would be seen in time as the single-most important historical event of the 20th century. pretty wild statement in it. >> there is wildness in it. whenever you make a global statement like that it is wild. >> you're not a buddhist. that's right. >> this is not religion. exactly. talk mindfulness. it is an areligious concept. the buddhists have practiced this in the course of their religion. but you don't have to do it in
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any religious context. >> interesting thing about buddhism. the buddha wasn't a buddhist. >> buddha was not a biewdit. no, but jesus was not a christian either. so in that sense -- the way i see the buddha and, say, christ as well as these profound geniuses of their time, who saw very, very deeply into the nature of reality. would you think that -- considering the other propositions that you make rather compellingly in your back -- book about the transformation of society that can be achieved. and the world. >> as the subtitle says. yes. that toinby may be right. i suspect he may be right but it may be hundreds of years to know. what is happening is a convergence of different types of cultures. you see what i am suggesting is
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the world is shifting to a deeper understanding of itself and what we have done from an evolutionary point of view with the species, home mow same against, same against sapns. virtually all of the history is only 5, 6000 years old. that's only 5, 6 generations since the beginning of recorded history. i'm saying in a way our species is still like in knee socks, you know, in short -- >> not even that. >> lower than that. recognize itself. right. >> and part of it is to become intimate with the human mind. what the buddha did, he, if you will, the scientist of the human mind. he didn't have any equipment, instrumentation at his disposal, he used his own mind to examine the mind. and he discovered fairly universal laws of the nature of
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the mind and suffering and psychology. and now what we're doing is we're able to use instrumentation to actually see the degree to which people are buddhists or not can transform the nature of their own minds so we're not so caught up in our impulses around violence, around anger, around fear, around all of the things that actually create huge amounts of harm and suffering both so to ourselves and others. emotional component of it that we can learn to regulate that. >> will mindfulness help you to be happy? and to live longer? we'll put those questions to our guest. but first here is his distinguished profile. born new york city. 60 years of age. wife mila. three children. bs chemistry. massachusetts institute of technology, hpd. molecular biology.
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university of massachusetts medical center. 15 years, men's rowing team, 1984. university of massachusetts medical school center for mindfulness and medicine, healthcare and society executive director five years, board member three years and currently, cambridge insight meditation center, board member, 19 years and currently. mind and life institute, boulder, colorado, a group that organizes dialogues between the dalai lama, vis chair of the board and crefntly. just published, coming to our senses. healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness. also, earlier best sellers "wherever you go, there you are" "full catastrophe, living and every day blessings." >> hobbies, running, inline skating, swimming, cosmology,
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string theory, high energy physics, backpacking and kayaking. name. >> -- jon kabat-zinn. >> dr. jon kabat-zinn. who is william james. >> he is spoken as of the father of american psychology. >> here's a quote from him. the faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character and will. that means the power of voluntarily bringing back and focusing it. the wandering attention. no one is in possession of his faculties if he have it not. an education which should improv the faculty would be the education power excellence. but it is easier to divine this ideal than give practical instructions for bringing it about. you do give a lot of practical instructions to bring it about. yes, this is a demonstration of
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william james' lack of awareness of what buddhist meditation is all about. it is only 2600 years old at this point. so it was around but he didn't have access. but isn't it interesting, the emphasis he puts on the requirement to be able to concentrate and to focus. exactly. >> now, do you find that because of the high tempo of the age in which we live, it is very difficult to concentrate? you're not kidding. for everybody. but particularly difficult, is it not, for the younger generation, they see everything digitally and very fast, and in using the computer they are dealing with units of cognition, one at a time. and i have detected this and i'm faulting the younger generation for this -- or maybe the older generation for not making it not happen. but as a consequence, there is a wandering of attention. and a fa failure to connect one unit of cognition to another.
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do you think that's an exaggeration? >> i don't know. i think it is very hard to speak about a whole generation and what is happening. in many ways the kids that do computer games they are extremely rapid of processing of information and older people who were born before that technology was available just can't learn to do it that way. >> do they see the bigger picture. all linked up in a larger frame. >> i think many do, time will well. we don't know yet. what james is pointing at is something that's fundamental, true in the 19th, 20th and 21st century. if you watch your mind for any period of time at all, you'll see it goes here and there. and it goes here and there. >> you head up the stress reduction clinic program. i want to move this on to the medical applications of your discipline. now, -- >> well let me connect this up. >> what is the stress reduction. about a minute and a half. >> the stress reduction clinic
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is called mindfulness-based stress reduction is basically a program that has spread around the world and treats people in mindfulness. >> how many people have you trained. 16,000 people. >> all medical patients. where did you do it? >> worcester, massachusetts, university of massachusetts medical school. >> what is entailed. an 8-week program where you come for 2 and a half hour class for 30 or 35 other medical patients all with different diagnoses. when the mind wanders you bring it back, mind wanders you bring it back, you don't want to bring it back, you're having a good time wandering, but you still bring it back. you train the mind that has also a quality of penetrative awareness. do you use chemicals. >> this is meditation, not medication. you switch a consonant. >> this isn't about drugs, this is about the natural capacity of
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human sore self-healing and learning and growing and transforming your body, mind and you. >> what is the level of instability in the participants? >> participants? >> instability. how psychologically unsable are they? >> i would say they are basically medically referred population, not a psychologically population. many suffer from anxiety and depression and so forth. so they are about as stable as you and i. you have a success ratio? >> that's hard to define. i would say at about the 58% level -- 85% level by think own reports. do you also head up the center for mindfulness. i am retired. also at the university of massachusetts medical school. the larger umbrella that houses the stress reduction. did you move into broader areas there than do you at the stress center? >> that's why we established the
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center for mindfulness. we have run programs in prisons and studied that, and in the inner city for people who don't even speak english, latino population, for instance. we conducted it in spanish as well as english. we do lots of research and there's a lot of growing lit a hours on mindfulness-based stress reduction and a new form of cognitive therapy mindfulness cognitive therapy. used for depression and anxiety and things like that. you know very well since you quoted himself david abram's book the spell of the sense sue with us. -- sense sue with us. i'm quoting you, including ourselves when we dwell in the wild. and he shares with us the rich dimensionty that gave birth us to and near tured us for
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hundreds of thousands of years and then you quote abram in the spell of the sensuous. the raven's loud guttural cry overhead is not circumscribed within a auditory field, visible, immediately the visible landscape with the wreckless style of mood proper through that jet black shape. marvelous wright. you and recapitulate this is saying -- your language, is no further than the sound of the rain tack then or the feel of the skin or the warmth of the sun on the backs or the look of the dogs eye when you come near. in a practical application of mindfulness, what you say that i draw a practical conclusion from, and can you correct me on it --
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>> the more you drop into your own truest best self, the more compassionate and wiser you'll be. you enhance your connectivity by going inside yourself. absolutely. there's no difference between inside and outside. is there born out in one of our books? an odd -- by juan ramon jiminez.
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i have a feeling the boat has struck against a great thing and nothing happens. nothing. silence. waves. nothing happens? or has everything happened? and we are standing now quietly in the new life. you see, if we could understand and go through a shift like that, maybe iraq would be an entirely different thing. how we got there or not, how we hold could be transformed by mindfulness. does mindfulness plug you into something larger? >> yes, it does. i think it plugs you into silence for one thing, and silence is tremendously compound. >> does is connect you with any or human being? >> yes you're already connected with it already cengts you. you feel it. >> you plug in. you plug in. that's a very mechanistic way of
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look at it. >> so great having you here, dr. jon kabat-zinn. good luck, and i'll have you back.
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